I recently read an article entitled Capitalism is killing Our Morals, Our Future. I found it most interesting because I agree with much of it. The premise of the article is that if the inequality gap between billionaires (who control the vast majority of the world’s wealth) and the rest of the world (over a billion people live on less than two dollars a day) continues to grow, it will fuel more revolutions and wars, which will only add more billionaires and more people living in poverty.
The article highlights Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel, (author of Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limit of Markets and Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?) who claims capitalism is undermining America’s moral values, while most Americans are in denial of the impact. He writes: “Americans have drifted from having a market economy to becoming a market society… where almost everything is up for sale… a way of life where market values seep into almost every sphere of life and sometimes crowd out or corrode important values, non-market values.”
Today almost everything can be bought and sold, and people will do anything for money. Markets and market values govern our lives as never before. I gave some thought to my own situation regarding money vs. morals. As a writer, that means the difference between writing what I’m motivated to write vs. writing what I think will sell.
I’ve been in many discussions with my peers on this subject. All writers want to sell their work, every novelist wants to create the next 50 Shades. Some only want the money, some want fame, some are simply looking for validation that what they write is good and appreciated, while others have a message they want to share with the world. I think most writes want all four. The difference I see is that many writers are willing compromise their art for money. That is, many of the writers I’ve talked to write stories they think the publishers and readers want to read, rather than writing what their heart dictates. True for some but not all.
I happen to be in the lucky position of being financially secure, so I can write whatever I please without needing to skip meals. That does not make me any more moral than my peers, and it doesn’t mean my books are any better. It simply means that I create what moves me in the way I want to write it.
If I needed more money I would be cranking out erotica, which seems to outsell everything. But unfortunately, that doesn’t twirl my skirt. For years I’ve written gay romance, but now my muse is leading me toward mainstream fiction. Will readers follow my shift in genre? Probably not. I’m going there anyway because that is what interests me, and I like the freedom of crafting stories the way I see fit. I believe they are better stories because of that freedom.
So for now, I haven’t traded in my morals for cash. That may change in the future, but today I’ll write what I want.